Importance: Consumption of dark chocolate can improve blood flow, mood, and cognition in the short term, but little is known about the possible effects of dark chocolate on visual performance.
Objective: To compare the short-term effects of consumption of dark chocolate with those of milk chocolate on visual acuity and large- and small-letter contrast sensitivity.
Design: A randomized, single-masked crossover design was used to assess short-term visual performance after consumption of a dark or a milk chocolate bar. Thirty participants without pathologic eye disease each consumed dark and milk chocolate in separate sessions, and within-participant paired comparisons were used to assess outcomes. Testing was conducted at the Rosenberg School of Optometry from June 25 to August 15, 2017.
Main outcomes and measures: Visual acuity (in logMAR units) and large- and small-letter contrast sensitivity (in the log of the inverse of the minimum detectable contrast [logCS units]) were measured 1.75 hours after consumption of dark and milk chocolate bars.
Results: Among the 30 participants (9 men and 21 women; mean [SD] age, 26  years), small-letter contrast sensitivity was significantly higher after consumption of dark chocolate (mean [SE], 1.45 [0.04] logCS) vs milk chocolate (mean [SE], 1.30 [0.05] logCS; mean improvement, 0.15 logCS [95% CI, 0.08-0.22 logCS]; P < .001). Large-letter contrast sensitivity was slightly higher after consumption of dark chocolate (mean [SE], 2.05 [0.02] logCS) vs milk chocolate (mean [SE], 2.00 [0.02] logCS; mean improvement, 0.05 logCS [95% CI, 0.00-0.10 logCS]; P = .07). Visual acuity improved slightly after consumption of dark chocolate (mean [SE], -0.22 [0.01] logMAR; visual acuity, approximately 20/12) and milk chocolate (mean [SE], -0.18 [0.01] logMAR; visual acuity, approximately 20/15; mean improvement, 0.04 logMAR [95% CI, 0.02-0.06 logMAR]; P = .05). Composite scores combining results from all tests showed significant improvement after consumption of dark compared with milk chocolate (mean improvement, 0.20 log U [95% CI, 0.10-0.30 log U]; P < .001).
Conclusions and relevance: Contrast sensitivity and visual acuity were significantly higher 2 hours after consumption of a dark chocolate bar compared with a milk chocolate bar, but the duration of these effects and their influence in real-world performance await further testing.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT03326934.